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Over the past many months of social isolation, I’ve relied on the healing benefits of bicycling to help keep me connected to the outside world. With everything closed down, there’s not much to do out there. Thankfully, riding a bike is still allowed—and encouraged, even! While I had been enjoying the local pay-as-you-go bikeshare service, Citi Bike, I found that my aspirations for biking had begun to roll up against my monthly budget plans. Sure, for a few bucks a ride, Citi Bike is a great deal. But at the end of the month, those $4 rides add up. And that’s not to mention how hard it’s been to even grab a Citi Bike these days, since everyone seems to be clamoring for wheels.
So I resolved to find myself a bike—a folding bike. Why the fold? Well, my apartment is tiny. We barely have enough room to walk around here, much less stow two 26-inch wheels. So a portable bike felt like the only option. And when I began searching for one in my budget range (under $1,000 until we get some actual stimulus money), I came across this Swagtron electric folding bike, which looked so promising that I forgot all about the lame, 2007-MTV-sounding name. What’s the Shakespeare quote? A bike by any other name…
Let me tell you a little bit about the Swagtron EB7 Plus electric bike with 7-speed gear shift and removable battery.
I’m on the road in fewer than five minutes.
There are three big selling points of the EB7 Plus. One, it’s cheap as hell (like, thousands of dollars beneath the competition). Two, it folds (small enough to fit under my work desk, in fact). And three, it’s electric (boogie woogie woogie). I had been anticipating all three of those features—and my expectations were pleasantly exceeded—but what surprised me most was how easy the thing was to get up and start going.
To unfold it, all you’ve got to do is swing out the clasp on the creased frame, click it in place, pull up the handle bars, lock them down, and you’re good to go. The bike powers up in seconds, and if you want, when you’re done, you can even remove the battery and plug it into the wall to charge instead of finding the nondescript port on the frame. If you timed me, I bet I could be out the door in three minutes flat.
It’s a smooth ride, man.
Now, unlike some of the more expensive folding bike brands like Brompton, the EB7 Plus doesn’t exactly fold down into a neat carry-on case. I felt like a bull in a china shop when I tried lugging the heavy metal pretzel around my local pet store. But I wasn’t expecting a bike that I could sling on my shoulder. All I wanted was something that I could tuck away in my apartment between joy rides. And the EB7 Plus gets the job done.
The bike has 16-inch wheels, enhanced rear suspension, an (orange!) aluminum frame, and a 7-speed gear system. All that is to say, it’s a smooth ride, man. Now, you shouldn’t expect a standard-sized-bike-quality experience on the road. This thing is, as one of the reviewers on Amazon so vividly put, the size of a “children’s bike.” The wheels feel noticeably small, and I still haven’t found myself using gears 1 through 5 on the 7-speed system. But for as puny as it looks, the EB7 Plus is nonetheless a very balanced ride. For cruising around the neighborhood or riding loops around the park, I’m having more fun on this bike than I ever did on one of those clunky Citi Bikes, which are so huge I sometimes felt like a beached whale on the bike path.
And the best thing is, when you’re approaching territory that feels too difficult for the mini bike, you can just rev the engine! The 350-watt motor will get you up even those backbreaking hills, and when you’re breezing down an incline or ripping across flatground, the electric pedal assist (or throttle mode) will take you up to 18.6 mph. I should also note that you can hit those speeds pretty quickly, if you’re planning on drag racing any of the psycho cyclists in your neighborhood. It’s even got a funny little electric horn you can use to bother them as you pass by!
It may not be premium, but it is certainly good.
The $699 EB7 Plus is not a perfect bike. The price tag should be a dead giveaway that it’s a bit lacking sometimes—especially when other electric folding brands, like GoCycle, are charging upwards of $3,000 for their base models. For example, I blew my back tire on a loose nail (damn teenagers!!) while riding to pick up some doughnuts last week, and most of the local bike shops refused to fix it. I fortunately found an electric bike shop, but that’s a luxury to which I’m not sure a lot of non-metropolitan residents have access. (Apparently, Swagtron recommends you send the whole bike back for repair if you pop a tire, which sounds a tad extreme, if you ask me.)
The Swagtron feels a bit too wiggly for comfort in windy, high-stakes scenarios, like riding across the Manhattan Bridge. And riding from my apartment, which is in South Brooklyn, all the way up to my office near Central Park, seemed like a potentially risky endeavor that certainly tested the limits of the 42-inch e-bike (and the battery, too, though I made it home right as the power went out, somehow). I’m not really interested in cross-country traveling on my Swagtron, though. If that’s what you want, you’d better be prepared to spend a lot more than seven hundred bucks. But, if you’re looking for an e-bike that will provide you a little bit of respite from long days sitting on your ass in your home “office,” the EB7 Plus is a super affordable choice that really holds up.
Ride it to the Chinese food spot to pick up your lo mein. Take it onto the riverside bike path, put on a podcast, and give yourself a break by using the hand-throttle. Or if you want a little exercise, try making it around the park without turning the motor on. Maybe cover up the logo with some duct tape, though.
Photography and prop styling by Allie Holloway and Timothy Mulcare
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